Dear Kazoo School friends,
The first weeks of 2017 are turning out to be filled with travel and networking opportunities. Just last Sunday I wrote about spending two days at the Zingerman’s seminar, “Creating a Vision of Greatness.” Then this past week I spent three days in Chicago at the ISACS Heads’ Conference. And then this week I will be out Wednesday morning for a meeting of Michigan Heads in Ann Arbor. Quite the busy time!
I found this to be a particularly productive Heads’ Conference. The two keynote speakers – Frank Bruni, New York Times contributor and author of the book Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be, and Reveta Bowers, Head Emeritus of The Center for Early Education in California – shared interesting insights into following your own path and working with students, parents, teachers, and trustees. I also attended sessions on enrollment management, digital marketing, and supporting transgender students. As always, I have returned with many new questions and ideas for further reflection.
Amid the sessions were opportunities for connecting with other heads. Headship can be a stressful and isolating experience, so it is immensely valuable to connect with others who share this position in other schools. Although, certainly, the work of headship can vary widely across ISACS schools – based on size and demographics of student body, number of employees, philosophical perspective, budget, and so forth – we still have much in common, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn from, and with, experienced school leaders from around the region.
I especially enjoyed spending time with a friend and fellow third-year Head, Jason Heisserer, Head of School at Crossroads College Prep School in St. Louis. Crossroads has put a strong and consistent emphasis on its anti-racism/anti-bias efforts under Jason’s leadership. He has strategically worked to engage all constituents in difficult conversations about race – teachers practice and serve as models for students; parents are challenged to step out of their comfort zones and question their own biases and privilege. His work is an inspiration for me as Kazoo builds our own anti-racism team.
Every year one of the best parts of this conference is the gathering of progressive Heads. This year our discussion centered around a “National Call to Action” released by the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) on November 22 of last year. This document, titled “Make Our School’s Values Known,” was published in response to “the troubling rash of reports of bias incidents and violence occurring in schools across the nation.” The statement goes on to explain:
“As learning communities, schools and school systems are responsible for providing all students with a physically and emotionally safe learning environment. This principle is the foundation of academic achievement, healthy individual development, and civic engagement. Violence, intimidation, and purposefully harmful expressions of bias undercut the core mission of schools and have no place in our school communities… At a time when specific groups of students are being targeted, we must ensure that those students specifically know that their schools welcome them and that they will be safe.”
NAIS calls on its member schools to “specifically affirm the right of all students, regardless of race, color, national origin, immigration status, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or religion to be educated in an environment free from fear, violence, and intimidation.”
In this complex political and social climate, it remains crucial that schools of all kinds – independent schools, public schools, progressive schools, religious schools, preschools, high schools, and everyone in between – stand by these values. Hate has no place in our schools, our communities, our country, or our world.
As much as I enjoy traveling and learning new things, I frequently find myself missing the familiar faces of Kazoo School. Our students – their kindness, curiosity, laughter, and dreams – remind me that the future is bright.
All my best,